A Therapist’s Note to You If Life Feels Impossible Right Now
When life feels impossible…
When life feels impossible, you may want to give up.
On your job, your kid, your partner, your life. You may want to run away to a corner of the world where no one will find you, where you can start over, where you can be free of the crushing weight of responsibilities you hold.
Mongolia sounds nice… who would find you in Mongolia? Or becoming a waitress in a diner with a rented apartment and no one and nothing to take care of.
When life feels impossible you may regret — deeply regret — big choices you’ve made that are now irrevocable (or seem that way).
You may grieve the choices you’ve made and all the paths that seem unavailable to you now. That person, that career, that down payment, that would-have-been child…
When life feels impossible, you may wake up at 3 a.m., content in sleep, and then when your mind gains a shred of consciousness, your brain grabs hold of thoughts like a needle on a record player and starts whirling and remembering… zooming you out of the peace you felt while asleep and unconscious, and spiraling you into anxiety for the rest of the sleepless morning.
When life feels impossible, you may cry five times before 8 a.m. and apply multiple coats of undereye concealer to hide the puffiness before heading into work. You may wonder how on Earth you’re going to get through the workday.
You rival the talents of Meryl Streep in acting OK just to get through the day. You watch the clock and think it will never reach 5 p.m.
When life feels impossible, you think your body — your stomach, your chest, your throat — can’t possibly hold any more of the hot heat of emotion you are feeling.
You may wonder how you thought things were hard before when they feel so much more vividly difficult and high stakes now.
When life feels impossible, you may wonder how on Earth your life got so terribly off track. You may think to yourself, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way for me!”
You may think back on all the choice points you could have taken that might have led you to more stable finances, a happier marriage, a healthier body.
You look at your old college classmates on Instagram and regret you didn’t go into finance, you didn’t stay with that guy from your dorm, you didn’t join that then-little-known startup that became Facebook.
When life feels impossible, you may find yourself watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Game of Thrones” to reassure yourself your life, while hard as hell right now, could hypothetically be worse.
When life feels impossible, you may look at other people — in your office, in their cars next to yours on the commute — and wonder if they have it easier. No, you know they have it easier. And you feel jealous and sad and angry about your own situation and having it so much harder.
When life feels impossible, people may say to you, “You’ll get through it. You’ll figure it out.” And you think to yourself, “What the hell does that mean?” And “yeah, I’ll figure it out because I have no choice but to figure it out,” and yet you still don’t know what that will look like.
When life feels impossible, all you may want in the world is to crawl under your blankets and dissociate through escapist TV, reading or sleep.
Being awake, being in touch with the reality of your life, feels too hard. When life feels impossible, you may feel like things will never get better.
You may be convinced things will always be this hard and painful and that you may have blown up your life with a choice you made, something you said or something you didn’t do or say. You may feel like this is now your new “normal.” A permanent state.
When life feels impossible, people can say to you, “I get it. I’ve been there. Things get better. Things will get better for you.”
But you don’t really believe them. Or you want a timeline and a tactical plan for how and when so you can have some hope.
When life feels impossible, you long to reach out to friends, to people who will understand, but maybe you don’t have these people. Or you can’t bring up what you want to talk about. Or it’s not emotionally safe to talk about it with people in your life. And even if you do reach out, it doesn’t feel like enough. And you’re afraid of exhausting your loved ones with your emotional needs.
When life feels impossible, everything can feel like too much. Like this human experience is just crushingly hard. Like this isn’t what you signed up for. Like you don’t know how you’re going to get through this.
And I want to tell you something:
If you’re feeling this way right now, you’re not alone. I know what this feels like for myself, and I see it with my friends, with my little family, with my clients and with my colleagues.
To feel this way is such a human experience. It’s pure, raw, unadulterated, broken, fractured humanness.
Reading these words likely won’t make you feel any better, and that’s not necessarily my intent, anyways. I want you to feel comforted and I want to tell you that things will get better and you can handle it. But I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t honestly know if that will be true.
I don’t know if things will, in fact, get harder for you. Or harder before they get better. And I don’t know how things will resolve for you, if they will resolve, and what the timeline and how of that resolution might be.
I want so badly to be able to say to you, “It will be OK.” And perhaps it will be. But it also probably hurts like hell right now and I want to let you know it’s OK to feel this way.
It’s OK to regret your life choices. It’s OK to want to quit your life, your kids, your marriage, your responsibilities. It’s OK to compare yourself to others you see walking past you, or on your Instagram feed.
It’s OK to hate your life circumstances right now. It’s OK to cry more than you smile today. It’s OK to feel like you’re just barely surviving and not thriving like you thought you would/should be when you got [fill in the blank].
It’s OK you’re going through this and it also sucks and hurts like hell at the same time.
Both things can be true.
In times like these, we have no choice but to dig deep, to turn toward any support we can. And sometimes those supports look like therapy and yoga and meditation. And sometimes they look like antidepressants, Netflix binges and popcorn for dinner every night of the week.
Sometimes emotional support looks like turning toward your best friends and booking an extra session with your therapist. And sometimes it looks like Googling all night and finding blog posts and forum threads from strangers who have gone through something similar, leaving you less alone.
Sometimes it just looks like going to sleep. Letting yourself have 10 solid hours of sleep where you can get a break from reality.
Sometimes it looks like “Marco Poloing” your best girlfriends twice. Three times. Four times in one day. Just to hear their voices. Just to see their faces and to feel OK.
Whatever your version of digging deep is, let that be OK.
Take care of yourself in any way you need to get through a particularly tough time. Try and remember the tough times you’ve survived before and how, in the middle of them, they felt endless and also impossible, and they, too, passed.
Try to remember you have a history of surviving tough times and let this be a sliver of consolation about the current tough time you find yourself in.
When life feels impossible, the last thing you want to do is beat yourself up for not coping with it better.
Do what you need to right now, honey.
There’s not one single prescription for self-care. Let whatever comforts you right now be OK and keep putting one foot in front of the other until your tough time is a ghost of a memory.
When life feels impossible, bookmark this post, come back to it when you need a digital proverbial permission slip to take care of yourself, and then keep taking things five minutes at a time.
Seek out the helpers who resonate with you, take the pieces of advice that work and leave the rest, trust the process and imagine this will pass.
I care about you.
Getty image by ThitareeSarmkasat